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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Prominent Tampa Republicans hold fundraiser for Rick Baker

Rick Baker

[CHERIE DIEZ | Times]

Rick Baker

Tampa-based partisan involvement in the non-partisan St. Petersburg mayor’s race continued Friday with a $500-per-person fundraiser sponsored largely by prominent Republicans for former Mayor Rick Baker, a Republican challenging Democratic Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Reporters weren’t allowed in the event in downtown Tampa, but some host committee members talked in phone interviews about why they’re involved in the race across the bay.

Like the Democrats who held a fundraiser a week ago for Kriseman, they said the reasons weren’t partisan but because St. Petersburg’s future is linked to Tampa’s.

“Clearly what happens in St. Petersburg has an impact throughout the region,” said Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce board chairman Mike Griffin, a host committee member who himself may have political ambitions.

Griffin brought up the recent St. Petersburg sewage spills, an embarrassment for Kriseman and a top issue for Baker, and noted, “It has a direct impact on our waters.” …

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Rick Baker pulls in another $300,000 in June in quest to regain St. Pete mayor's office

Rick Baker continues to rake in the campaign cash: $300,000 more in June

Eve Edelheit

Rick Baker continues to rake in the campaign cash: $300,000 more in June

Late Friday afternoon, the campaign of former mayor Rick Baker released fundraising totals for June. And they're impressive: another $300,000, bringing the mayor's totals to about $854,000.

Mayor Rick Kriseman's campaign hadn't released totals on Friday. The mayor had raised more than $500,000 through the end of May.

The two Ricks have already smashed fundraising records for a mayoral race in the Sunshine City.

Last month, Baker raised most of his money---in total dollars---from GOP-controlled PACs and deep-pocketed Republicans.

So how about June? Details weren't available on Friday on the state Elections Division website (for PAC donations) or the city's Election database. 

Bay Buzz will likely have to wait until after the July 4th holiday to inform readers on who is fiilling Baker's campaign coffers.

News release below: 

Rick Baker raises over $300,000 in second

Fundraising month

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – June 30, 2017 – At the close of the second month of fundraising, Rick Baker has raised $300,740 in contributions to his campaign and Seamless Florida, an affiliated political committee. Bringing the total raised in just seven weeks to approximately $854,000. …

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Rick Kriseman wins local Sierra Club endorsement

Mayor Rick Kriseman snags local Sierra Club endorsement. Group says sewage crisis aside, he's best on environment

James Borchuk

Mayor Rick Kriseman snags local Sierra Club endorsement. Group says sewage crisis aside, he's best on environment

Mayor Rick Kriseman received a holiday gift from the local chapter of the Sierra Club Friday: an endorsement.

For nearly two years, Kriseman has struggled to emerge from an ongoing sewage crisis that dumped about 200 million gallons of sewage into local waterways and streets. The spills sparked federal and state investigations. The state investigation is ongoing.

The Suncoast Group of Sierra Club didn’t mention the sewage crisis in its news release, but David Harbeitner, the chapter’s political chair, said the group has been closely tracking issue since first discharges began in 2015.

“We have been very concerned about it since 2015, but we wanted to make sure the administration was getting to the root cause,” Harbeitner said.

Kriseman’s $304 million plan to fix the sewers and a master plan to roadmap long term fixes to the sewer and stormwater systems is evidence that the mayor takes the issue seriously, Harbeitner said.

Also important are Kriseman’s other accomplishments, including implementing curbside recycling and developing a sustainability action plan.

And Kriseman gets it right on climate change, Harbeitner said. …

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St. Pete Poll adjusts numbers in mayor's race

Poll tweaks in favor of mayoral candidate in St. Pete's far southern neighoboods

Eve Edelheit

Poll tweaks in favor of mayoral candidate in St. Pete's far southern neighoboods

Earlier in the week, an independent poll showed former mayor Rick Baker leading Mayor Rick Kriseman by a 44-39 margin.

For political nerds, the various breakdowns, by race, age, political party and gender were of interest. 

On Friday, St. Pete Polls released a new geographic spread, showing Baker winning all areas outside of downtown. The previous version showed Kriseman winning areas of south St. Petersburg below Lake Maggiore and toward the beaches, including Pinellas Point and Maximo Moorings. 

The new poll now shows a dead heat in that part of town.

An interesting side note:  The largest bloc of undecided voters reside in Midtown, which is widely seen as the part of town that will determine the election either in August or November. Nearly 15 percent of voters there haven't made up their minds.

Coincidentally, Kriseman is officially opening his Midtown campaign office, 833 22nd St. S,  tomorrow at noon. There will be a cookout. 

You can check out the new polls version, complete with map of the different geographic areas, here. 

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Democrat to challenge incumbent Pasco Commissioner Wells

Social worker Brandi Geoit has filed to run for the Pasco County Commission seat held by incumbent Republican Mike Wells Jr. 

Geoit, 41, is executive director of the West Coast AIDS Foundation and  vice president of the Pasco County National Organization for Women. A Democrat, she lives in the Embassy Hills area of west Pasco. 

Earlier this month, she was one of the public speakers at a stakeholders meeting on a proposed one-stop homeless navigation center to be located in the shuttered Boys & Girls Club buildings on Youth Lane. Geoit urged the county to proceed with the plan and asked objecting neighbors to reconsider their opposition. 

Geoit is the first Democrat to run for the District 4 commission seat since then-Commissioner Michael Cox lost his re-election bid in 2010. Political neophyte Henry Wilson, a Republican, upset Cox, but lost the seat four years later to Wells in a winner-take-all Republican primary. 

Wells filed his own re-electon papers last week.

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Rick Baker gives himself a "B" in first debate against Rick Kriseman

Rick Baker chats with supporters at a fundraiser at St. Petersburg Yacht Club Wednesday evening

Charlie Frago

Rick Baker chats with supporters at a fundraiser at St. Petersburg Yacht Club Wednesday evening

ST. PETERSBURG — Rick Baker gave himself a “B” in his first debate against Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Some supporters and advisors at Baker’s fundraiser at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club on Wednesday evening might have graded him a tad lower, but the consensus was that the former mayor had his moments, good and meh, in his return to debating for public office.

But Baker was already looking forward to future debates, asking the 75 or so people who gathered in a banquet room with a view of Tampa Bay to pack the front rows in upcoming debates and candidate forums.

SUNSHINE CITY SHOWDOWN: Keep up with the Tampa Bay Times coverage of the St. Petersburg mayoral race

He singled out the July 25 televised debate with Kriseman. The two mayors will appear at a debate at the Palladium Theater downtown sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9 along with the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College. That debate will be televised by Bay News 9 and broadcast online at tampabay.com. …

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Does St. Petersburg's police chief need to live in the 'Burg? Rick Baker thinks so

Chief Tony Holloway's residence in North County has become part of the mayor's race in St. Petersburg

Cheri Diez

Chief Tony Holloway's residence in North County has become part of the mayor's race in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Last night’s mayoral throwdown between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker got nasty enough that the moderator and some members of a packed, sweaty audience at Midtown’s Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church told the two leading candidates to cool it.

They did, most of the time. But aside from the drama, lots of substantive issues were discussed that didn’t make the first draft of that particular day in city history.

And, breathe easy, none of them involve sewage. But a lot of them involved the St. Petersburg Police Department, especially where Chief Tony Holloway lays his head at night.

SUNSHINE CITY SHOWDOWN: Keep up with the Tampa Bay Times coverage of the St. Petersburg mayoral race

Holloway was Kriseman’s go-to answer when questioned about crime, especially in Midtown.

The mayor said he has total faith in Holloway, who he hired in 2014 from Clearwater when he was the police chief there.

"We have a great police chief who had reconnected our community with our police department and brough community policing back to the city,” Kriseman said. …

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Where's the synergy between Hillsborough and Pinellas leaders?

Political leaders talk about regionalism, but the synergy between Pinellas and Hillsborough leaders isn't exactly gushing into Tampa Bay.

Consider the recent jockeying by Pinellas County Commission chair Janet Long to get Hillsborough County commissioners to hold two joint meetings to discuss the region's biggest issues. Long wants t public officials to talk about sewers, transportation and other problems that cross county lines.

She thought she had a deal and even sent Hillsborough County Commission chair Stacy White a letter to thank him for agreeing to the meetings. Then it got complicated.

Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill told Long that both commissions had more work to do before meeting. White's office then said he never agreed to hold two meetings.

Long told White that kind of thinking "has kept us from moving froward as a region." More here. 

 

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Pinellas legislators talk governor's race, policy at delegation breakfast

If anybody was expecting state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, to quit being coy and and announce his bid for the 2018 governor's race to the friendly crowd at Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce's annual legislative delegation breakfast Wednesday, they left disappointed.

Latvala dodged a question posed to each legislator asking who they predict will be their party's nominee.

“I just want to acknowledge my best friend in the senate, one of the finest members of the senate who's here with me today,” Latvala non-answered. “Sen. Denise Grimsley has just been an outstanding member of the senate.”

One of Latvala's Republican colleagues, his son, pointed to him. But others spoke more in code.

“I don't think that nominee has been announced candidate yet,” said his son, Rep. Chris Latvala. “I think if he were to do it, he certainly would win, and that's my father.”

Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, agreed the likely nominee has not yet entered the race, but after the breakfast, he declined to specify who that might be. Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, said "Ditto" to Sprowls' answer during the breakfast. …

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Uhurus cancel protest of Rick Baker at yacht club fundraiser

Jesse Nevel's Uhuru-affiliated campaign postpones protest

Lara Cerri

Jesse Nevel's Uhuru-affiliated campaign postpones protest

ST. PETERSBURG — Jesse Nevel's campaign had planned to stage an anti-Rick Baker protest outside the St. Petersburg Yacht Club this evening while the former mayor held a fundraiser inside.

Now, that's not happening.

"It's been postponed," said Jackson Hollingsworth, a Nevel campaign spokeswoman. "That's all I can say right now."

SUNSHINE CITY SHOWDOWN: Keep up with the Tampa Bay Times coverage of the St. Petersburg mayoral race

Nevel and the Uhurus have been a vocal presence on the campaign trail this summer, holding protests outside the Tampa Bay Times building for being excluded from a July 25 debate. Nevel supporters also criticized Pastor Louis Murphy Sr. for not inviting Nevel to participate in the Mt.Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church forum on Tuesday. One supporter wearing a Nevel shirt questioned Murphy's motives as "a man of God" before being cut off by moderator Tammie Fields.

It's been an eventful week for Nevel.  The Times reported that he has never voted in a city election. And a St. Pete Polls survey released Wednesday shows him polling at 2.1 percent behind Theresa "Momma Tee" Lassiter at 3 percent and tied with Anthony Cates III at 2 percent.  …

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Wells files for re-election to Pasco commission

First-term Pasco County Commissioner Mike Wells Jr. has filed for re-election in 2018.

Wells, a Republican, joined the commission in 2014 after beating first-term incumbent Commissioner Henry Wilson in a winner-take-all GOP primary. Since joining the commission, Wells, a boat captain, has advocated for better recreational opportunities, particularly for the boating and fishing enthusiasts, along Pasco’s coast. Wells also pushed a local ordinance that banned newspaper solicitors from working on road medians. Earlier this year, he cast the lone vote against a planned increase in the county’s stormwater assessment that is intended to help address street flooding problems across the county.

Wells, who turns 47 in August, currently is the commission’s vice chair and likely will rise to chairman later this year. He also has represented the commission on the Pasco Economic Development Council, the Value Adjustment board, the Area Agency on Aging, and other local and regional boards.

In his campaign announcement, Wells stated: …

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New poll shows tight St. Petersburg mayor's race

Former Mayor Rick Baker answers a question during the mayoral candidate forum at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday. Mayor Rick Kriseman is in the foreground.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

Former Mayor Rick Baker answers a question during the mayoral candidate forum at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday. Mayor Rick Kriseman is in the foreground.

ST. PETERSBURG — A new poll shows a tight race between former Mayor Rick Baker and incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman as they battle each other in the most expensive mayoral race in city history.

A few minutes after midnight Wednesday, St. Pete Polls released a survey showing Baker, a Republican, beating Kriseman, a Democrat, by  a 43.5 to 38.8 percentage point margin. The poll used automated calls to contact 754 St. Petersburg residents. It had a margin of error of plus/minus 3.6 percent.

If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in the Aug. 29 primary, the race continues until Nov.7.

SUNSHINE CITY SHOWDOWN: Keep up with the Tampa Bay Times coverage of the St. Petersburg mayoral race

That appears likely at this point. Only 8.9  percent of voters remain undecided. Another 8.7 percent split their support among the other five candidates on the ballot: Ernisa Barnwell, Anthony Cates III, Paul Congemi, Theresa “Momma Tee” Lassiter and Jesse Nevel.

Baker leads Kriseman among white and black voters, although the former mayor, who served between 2001 and 2010, has a narrow advantage among the latter: 38 to 36 percent. …

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Tampa moves to pause permits for 5G wireless equipment to assess impact of new Florida law

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and other local officials have worried that a new state law aimed at facilitating the installation of 5G wireless technology could clutter scenic corridors like Tampa's Riverwalk.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times (2015)

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and other local officials have worried that a new state law aimed at facilitating the installation of 5G wireless technology could clutter scenic corridors like Tampa's Riverwalk.

To business groups, the bill that Gov. Rick Scott signed Friday will clear the way for superfast 5G wireless communications and give Florida an edge in attracting high-tech companies.

But city officials on both sides of Tampa Bay worry that House Bill 687 will lead to clutter along roads as charming as Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard. There, they fear, utility poles could be topped by new so-called “micro antennas” that, at 6 cubic feet, would be the size of small refrigerators.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has called an early version of the bill a “power grab” that usurps the authority of his city to protect the look and character of amenities like the Riverwalk and the Ybor City historic district.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman urged Scott to veto the bill, saying it would allow the construction of 50-foot-tall telecommunications structures. St. Petersburg has already spent a lot of money burying utility lines underground along its waterfront, Kriseman said in a letter to Scott last month, and "allowing unregulated structures where they have been removed would drastically change the views and aesthetics in our city." …

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Do you need to vote in city elections to run for mayor of St. Petersburg? Jesse Nevel says no

Jesse Nevel is running for mayor, but has never voted in a city election

Lara Cerri

Jesse Nevel is running for mayor, but has never voted in a city election

ST. PETERSBURG — Jesse Nevel is running for mayor. But, voting records show, he has never cast a ballot in a St. Petersburg city election.

Nevel, 27, said that won’t matter with voters. He believes many city residents are like him: they’ve never had a candidate worth casting a ballot for.

“I’m like thousands of other people in this city who see nothing to vote for,” Nevel said. “Most people in this city don’t vote in local elections because there are no options on the ballot that speak to the interests of the people.”

SUNSHINE CITY SHOWDOWN: Keep up with the Tampa Bay Times coverage of the St. Petersburg mayoral race

Residents will respond to his radical message of reparations for the black community to boost economic development, he said.

Nevel is running with the endorsement of Uhuru leader Omali Yeshitela. Nevel is one of seven candidates for mayor on the ballot for the Aug. 29 primary.

In fact, Nevel hasn’t voted in any local, state or federal election since casting an early ballot in the 2008 general election. …

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St. Petersburg qualifying ends. Seven for mayor. Eight in primary for City Council District 6 seat

City Clerk Chan Srinivasa (2nd left) and Senior Deputy City Clerk  Cathy Davis (1st left) celebrate the end of qualifying period with colleagues on Friday afternoon

Charlie Frago

City Clerk Chan Srinivasa (2nd left) and Senior Deputy City Clerk Cathy Davis (1st left) celebrate the end of qualifying period with colleagues on Friday afternoon

ST. PETERSBURG — The smiles of the faces of the workers in the City Clerk’s office said it all Friday. The qualifying period for city elections was almost over.

Officially, it ended at 5 p.m., but City Clerk Chan Srinivasa said a few minutes before that it was already done. To get through all the paperwork a last-minute procrastinator for one of four City Council races or the mayoral contest would have had to arrive at City Hall about 4 p.m., he said.

No one showed as the clock ticked down. The Tampa Bay Times was the only media organization present.

Not like the old days, mused Cathy Davis, a longtime employee in the clerk’s office.

The TV stations, newspapers and bloggers used to gather to see the final qualifying list. Now, it’s all online, although the Internet, so fond of drama, wouldn't show any last-minute dramatics of Srinivasa telling somebody they were too late to chase their dream of elected office.

Aside from a Times reporter, consultant Meagan Salisbury, running the campaigns of incumbent City Council chairwoman Darden Rice and newcomer Gina Driscoll in District 6 also waited — just in case. …

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